Definition of motif in English:

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Pronunciation: /məʊˈtiːf/


1A decorative image or design, especially a repeated one forming a pattern: the colourful hand-painted motifs which adorn narrowboats
More example sentences
  • In addition to church furnishings and tombs, he specialized in the design of ornamental motifs, which he popularized in a series of engravings, 1548-77.
  • Included are geometrics, florals and foliates, animals and nature motifs and other decorative repeat patterns.
  • Crafted in gold or silver, medals were adorned with decorative motifs and appropriate inscriptions engraved by hand.
design, pattern, decoration, figure, shape, logo, monogram, device, emblem, ornament
1.1A decorative device applied to a garment or textile: floral or other motifs are then appliquéd to net veils
More example sentences
  • Steamers are also found as a decorative motif on embroidered silk textiles.
  • Satin mini-skirts abound in a range of wild colors, some embroidered with floral motifs.
  • She was wearing black jeans, a red jumper with a lion motif and a black bodywarmer when she disappeared.
2A dominant or recurring idea in an artistic work: superstition is a recurring motif in the book
More example sentences
  • This distinctively narrative work presents a host of motifs that recur throughout Schreuders' printed works, including mermaids and sculpted figures.
  • Chapter 1 introduces a series of motifs that recur in subsequent chapters and carry similar associations with them.
  • There is no attempt to create a genre with recurring motifs like, for example, chick lit's shoes, sex, and Chardonnay.
2.1 Music A leitmotif or figure (see figure (sense 5 of the noun)): in this opera, Verdi used identifying motifs
More example sentences
  • Counterpoint and repetition of motifs provide cohesiveness and musical logic.
  • His operas reveal careful dramatic planning, and his use of recurring themes and motifs frequently creates conceptual and musical unity within a work.
  • The arrangements are intelligent without being fussy: tuneful refrains for cello and woodwind, beguiling motifs for piano and vibes, emotional guitar and restrained drums.
3 Biochemistry A distinctive sequence on a protein or DNA, having a three-dimensional structure that allows binding interactions to occur.
Example sentences
  • Early on, clustering was used to detect common three-dimensional structural motifs in proteins.
  • Specifically, we defined two small but functionally important structural motifs within the Rux protein.
  • Consequently, particular sets of correlated peptides serve to define particular sets of homologous protein motifs within the data set.


Mid 19th century: from French.

Words that rhyme with motif

aperitif, beef, belief, brief, chief, enfeoff, fief, grief, interleaf, leaf, Leif, lief, Mazar-e-Sharif, misbelief, naif, O'Keeffe, reef, seif, Sharif, sheaf, shereef, sportif, Tenerife, thief

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: motif

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